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‘Bad Boys II’ Is a Highlight-Reel Movie

With the franchise finally on course for a third installment, here’s an appreciation of the 2003 Will Smith–Martin Lawrence sequel, which has so many entertaining moments it deserves a category all of its own

Columbia Pictures/Ringer illustration

“Is he under there?”

That’s a question Martin Lawrence’s character, Marcus, asks Will Smith’s character, Mike, in Bad Boys II. The scene happens about an hour and a half into the movie. The “he” is in reference to a bad guy that Marcus and Mike were hoping to ask a few questions. The “under there” is in reference to the space between a public transit train and its track. Mike and the bad guy were in a fight on the train and they ended up crashing through a large window at one end of the train and Mike threw the bad guy onto the tracks and then the train rode over him before skidding to a stop. The bad guy died, obviously. And in a very gruesome way, obviously. And still, I had completely forgotten about that particular movie death until I rewatched Bad Boys II this past weekend following Will Smith posting a video on Instagram announcing that Sony was officially going to be making and releasing Bad Boys III.

Picture that. Picture you’re a bad guy in a movie and you get thrown under a train after getting into a fistfight with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and you’re still relegated to the Anonymous Dead Bad Guy movie abyss.

You know the thing where people say a movie is either a Good Movie (as in, “The Social Network is good all the way through. It is a good movie.”) or a Bad Movie (as in, “Rampage is bad all the way through. It is a bad movie.”) or a Good Bad Movie (as in, “Deep Blue Sea is a movie with a silly premise but is ultimately fun to watch. It is a good bad movie.”) or a Bad Good Movie (as in, “Lincoln is a movie that is technically very well done but it’s pretty much a chore to watch. It is a bad good movie.”)? There should be another category. It should be called something like a Highlight-Reel Movie. As in, “This movie is not one I’m very interested in sitting down to watch in its entirety, but it is absolutely one that has several scenes that I will pull up on YouTube to watch.” Because that’s what Bad Boys II is. It’s not a Good Movie and it’s not a Bad Movie and it’s not a Good Bad Movie and it’s not a Bad Good Movie. It’s a Highlight-Reel Movie.

Seven highlight scenes from Bad Boys II, ordered by how highlight-y they are:

  • The Reggie scene. A 15-year-old boy shows up at Marcus’s house to take his daughter, Megan, out on a date. Marcus opens the door, sizes up Reggie (who, despite being about 6-foot-4, appears waifish and meek and terrified), then starts hyper-interrogating him. Mike pops out from around the corner holding a bottle of liquor, pretending to be drunk. He walks over and starts interrogating Reggie, too. Marcus tells Reggie that Mike is an ex-con who’s just gotten out of prison, which Mike uses as an excuse to lean further into his role. He’s cussing at Reggie and pointing a gun at Reggie and just generally unraveling him in every way imaginable. And clearly, there are several complicated issues packed into this moment (like, how this kind of move removes the agency from Megan; also, I can’t imagine it’s ever a good idea to point a gun at someone, especially a child, even if it’s only in jest), but it remains the most highlight-y of all the highlight-reel moments in BBII.
  • The ecstasy scene. Marcus unknowingly ingests some ecstasy while he and Mike are trying to find evidence to prove that Johnny Tapia is a very powerful drug dealer. They get the evidence and take it straight to their captain’s house, but in the time between unknowingly ingesting the ecstasy and arriving at the captain’s house, Marcus becomes very, very high. And so he’s wandering around in the background of the scene doing and saying funny things while Mike, who realizes what’s happening right before the captain answers the door, tries to keep the captain from finding out. And I know the bones of that sounds like the plot of a too-hot-for-Disney episode of That’s So Raven, but it’s real and it’s true and it’s very, very funny. (Will Smith is absolutely the funniest person in this movie, but Martin Lawrence crushes him in this scene.)
  • The highway chase scene when the bad guys, who are on one of those big rigs that transports a bunch of cars from one place to another, start unloading the cars as a way to try to get Marcus and Mike (among other people) to stop chasing them. Marcus, to Mike, after the first car has just been released off the back of the big rig and gone tumbling past them: “Did you see that?!” Mike, to Marcus: “They’re throwing cars! How [am I gonna] not see that?!”
  • The “Bad boys for life” scene. Michael Bay directed BBII. Beyond all of the gigantic gunfights and helicopter assaults and highway chase scenes, the “Bad boys for life” scene is when he most confidently and most effectively puts his stamp on it. Marcus has just found out that his sister, Sydney (Gabrielle Union), an undercover agent, has been outed and kidnapped by Johnny Tapia, the movie’s main villain. He finds out that Tapia has taken her to Cuba, and so we get a few seconds of some higher-ups running Marcus through some bureaucratic red tape about why the government isn’t going to help her. He gets so fed up that he leaves the room. Mike walks out after him, and they sit in a different room alone together and Marcus cries a bit before Mike says to him, “We ride together, we die together. Bad boys for life. We just gotta do it ourselves, man.” A couple of extremely beefy, dangerous-looking “ex-Delta guys” watch them embrace, and they’re so moved by it that they walk over (IN SLOW MOTION WHILE ARMAGEDDON-Y MUSIC PLAYS IN THE BACKGROUND) to the room, open the double doors at once, then pose right there in the entryway like they’re shooting a commercial for a company called MASCULINITY FOR MEN, BY MEN. Before Marcus or Mike can speak, one of them says, “Don’t know you. You look like you’re about to do something stupid. I’m in.” I love this scene so much. It’s less than 90 seconds long, and the movie has given us absolutely no reason at all to be even the tiny bit invested in the ex-Delta guys, but it lands perfectly. It has an actual emotional heft to it. It’s exactly the kind of thing you’re hoping to see when you walk into a Michael Bay film. (Michael Bay also directed Armageddon, which is why this moment feels so much like it was plucked right from that movie.)
  • The KKK shootout. Here’s a fun stat: Bad Boys II is two hours and 27 minutes long. That’s five minutes longer than The Shawshank Redemption. That’s incredible. Michael Bay deciding to make BBII that long is like the movie version of when MC Hammer finished writing the fourth verse of “U Can’t Touch This” and said, “You know what this song needs? Two more dance breaks and a hook and a fifth verse.” The KKK shootout happens in the first couple of minutes of BBII, and in most any other action movie a scene where two black guys go undercover as KKK members and then pop out like, “Surprise, bitches!” and then make a bunch of jokes before getting into a big-time shootout would’ve been the aforementioned action movie’s big and climactic finish. Not here, though. There’s so much other stuff that happens after the shootout, in fact, that by the time you get to the end of the movie (which takes place in Cuba, and includes a rocket-launcher fight at a mansion and then a Hummer driving down the side of a mountain through a drug village and crashing its way onto the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and concludes with a standoff in a minefield), you’ve nearly forgotten that it even happened.
  • The Haitian house shootout. It is a great fear of mine that you’ve gotten this far into the article and think that I do not like Bad Boys II. Because that is definitely not the case. I like it a great, great deal. It’s too long and too bombastic and too unreasonable and it’s too over-the-top and several parts of it are problematic, and still: I like it a great, great deal. And the Haitian house shootout, in which Mike and Marcus go to war with a group of Haitian criminals in a hideout home, is a big part of the reason. It’s very violent and very colorful and very ambitiously shot and very funny (the funniest part is when Mike, trying to make a point to Marcus that he needs to stop killing people, “interviews” a few suspects after Mike has already killed them).
  • The scene when Sydney tells Marcus that she and Mike went on several dates when he was in New York. The great con of Bad Boys II is that, despite it being a movie that often seems to exist only so that things can get blown up or have holes shot in them or get blown up while having holes shot in them, its best parts are when its principal characters—Mike and Marcus, of course, but also Sydney—are allowed to interact with one another in an everyday setting. They’re all just so good and smart and funny together. The best scene they have is when Sydney decides that she’s going to tell Marcus that she and Mike are dating. Sydney is full of bluster and confidence but Mike is terrified about the idea of Marcus hearing that they’re dating so he shrinks down into himself, talking only under his breath at Sydney until he’s finally confronted by Marcus. Marcus asks him what’s going on, and Mike gets very tongue-tied and awkward about the situation in that extremely charming way that Will Smith mastered early on in his career. And you can’t see it in the clip above, but Mike and Marcus get so mad about the way the other is behaving that they’re able to pivot away from the jokes and into a serious and biting conversation, and it’s right there that you remember that Will Smith is a world-class actor and that he and Martin Lawrence are nearly perfect together and, oh, man. I am very excited for Bad Boys III.